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Barrick CEO, PNG Prime Minister to meet on potential fast-track of Porgera restart

Porgera is an open pit and underground gold mine in the Enga province of Papua New Guinea, about 600 km (370 miles) northwest of Port Moresby. (Image courtesy of Barrick Gold.)

Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX) (NYSE: GOLD) chief executive Mark Bristow is set to meet with Papua New Guinea (PNG) Prime Minister James Marape this week, with the aim of speeding up the restart of the country’s Porgera gold mine. 

Bristow, who is joined by other senior Barrick executives, arrived in PNG on Tuesday and will stay until Friday as part of a regular visit, the Porgera Joint Venture said.

Porgera has been closed for about 18 months, as Barrick and its partner China’s Zijin Mining became embroiled in the dispute with the government and locals over benefits sharing, while attempting to renew the mine’s license. 

The standoff was resolved in April with a deal that gave the PNG government a majority stake. Barrick and Zijin agreed to halve their stakes, leading Bristow to express hope that operations could resume before year-end. Negotiations to finalize the agreement, however, have been slow, Bristow said in the statement

“The current pace of the negotiations is not as rapid as we might have hoped, but certain commercial arrangements need to be finalized to give our shareholders confidence in the reinvestment,” he said. “We all need to put in our best efforts towards concluding the remaining agreements if we want to have any chance of restarting the mine this year or early next year,” he added. 

The PNG government owns a 51% share in the mine, while Barrick Niugini Limited, jointly owned by Barrick and Zijin, has a 49% stake and is Porgera’s operator. Barrick and Zijin each previously held a 47.5% stake.

The vast gold mine is an open pit and underground operation in the Enga province of Papua New Guinea, about 600 kilometres (370 miles) northwest of Port Moresby. 

It produced about 600,000 ounces of gold in 2019 before being put on care and maintenance.